RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Exports of goods from Virginia to more than 210 destinations around the globe continue to grow, according to new data from the state Economic Development Partnership's international trade office.
Virginia exports increased slightly to $18.2 billion in 2012, ranking it as the 26th largest exporting state in the U.S.
"Exports are vitally important for Virginia's economic well-being," said state Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore. "The thing about exports that I think people sometimes forget is that they're not only helping the company or companies that are shipping them into the global marketplace, but there's a ripple effect back down the business chain. ... There are a lot of jobs between the point of production and shipping."
Virginia has about 6,600 companies involved in international trade, both imports and export, according to the most recent available figures. Of those, roughly 5,500 have fewer than 500 employees.
Exports support about 300,000 private-sector jobs, and nearly one-sixth of all manufacturing workers in Virginia depend on shipping overseas for their jobs.
Manufactured goods, which accounted for more than 80 percent of all Virginia merchandise exports in 2012, increased to about $15 billion last year, followed by agricultural exports and mineral fuel.
Gov. Bob McDonnell is set to release the details of the state's agriculture exports at the start of a two-day conference on Thursday.
Virginia's top commodity in 2012 was industrial machinery, which increased slightly to $2.55 billion last year. Electrical machinery was the second-largest export valued at about $1.9 billion, followed by vehicles, parts for aircraft or spacecraft, and paper and paperboard.
For the 16th consecutive year, Canada topped the list of destinations for Virginia exports, importing more than $3.1 billion worth of goods. China was second in 2012, importing about $2.04 billion and the United Kingdom was third with nearly $1.08 billion.
Among the top 10 destinations for Virginia exports, Australia saw the largest increase of about 26 percent, as exports to the country totaled about $450 million in 2012.
Virginia exports are rebounding after significant declines in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession, but officials have said continued funding and support for programs are vital to sustaining and growing Virginia trade.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.